I don’t want schools to close – but they should

I’m a teacher. I’m in this job to help my students build confidence in who they are. Even before the spread of COVID-19 the world was a scary, uncertain place.

I don’t want to to abandon my post. Kids need stability, and they need their role models now more than ever.

But, school is meant to be a safe space and it’s simply not safe right now.

Other countries have closed their classrooms. We will probably close ours at some point, that doesn’t mean we will stop working.

A number of schools that have shut have stayed open for students whose parents work in the medical field or in childcare and other essential fields.

Talking with staff at my school, we actually think we’d be more able to cater for and extend our more academic kids if we were working primarily online. If we collaborate on lesson content and resources for those students who are unlikely to engage in whatever we post, then it frees up our time to read and provide feedback on whatever our students send through.

That said, I’d love to be inundated with questions and work samples from every kid in every class. It would take a lot of support from the people they have at home, and that would be a good thing too.

Teachers often get denigrated for being nothing more than glorified babysitters who are only in it for the holidays. We are constantly reminded of the saying that “those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach”.

These comments ensure that kids come in to school with negative opinions before they’ve even met their teacher – teachers who are currently putting their own health and the health of their families at risk so that everyone else can still go to work.

I understand the hesitation to make a decision on closing schools, the knock-on effect is huge.

What I’d like to see is school become optional for the foreseeable future. Parents can do what they think is best for their children, and schools can modify their approach to suit the needs of those who attend. Trust us, we can do it. We’re used to being flexible.

A Relentless Confession

I don’t know when I first came across Hamish Brewer. I think, at some point in the past, that I might have seen a video of him a while back. More recently I found videos of him online and his infectious enthusiasm had me hooked. I found him on Twitter and Facebook and, through there, saw that he had a book being released this year. I ordered it… but in the interests of saving a few dollars I ordered it from a website I don’t usually use and it took longer than anticipated to arrive. My holiday reading (aside from the 4 novels I read to ensure I knew what I was teaching) became a book I had to read during the term.

Relentless was a phenomenal read.

So much of what was on the pages resonated with me and my beliefs about education. And so much of it pained me to read because I am not the teacher I once was.

That might be a little harsh.

Let me try to weave my story around Hamish Brewer and his words.

One of the dominant themes of Relentless is the power of relationships. Take any of these passages as proof.

I echo those sentiments. Every single success I have ever had was built on relationships. Every positive moment in my day-to-day working life is the by-product of the relationships I have built.

I may feel like I’m not teaching at the height of my powers (more on that to come) but I’m still successful because of the relationships I foster. I hear from students, parents and colleagues that the kids like me. While I’m not in this business to be liked, it certainly makes behaviour management and other aspects of the classroom easier.

How do I build this rapport?

The short answer is that I’m open and honest with the students, that I don’t compromise who I am, that I am passionate about my subject area, that I want the best for them and that I don’t think I’m better than them.

There’s probably more to it. It certainly helps that I’m unconventional, more ‘chilled’ than most teachers. I like to have fun in my classroom and that means that I’m cracking jokes and being sarcastic alongside my content delivery.

But, and here’s where the confession comes in, I’m not as motivated as I have been in the past. I’m passionate and unconventional, as I just mentioned, but I’m no longer being as innovative as I once was.

Hamish Brewer talks about the importance of relevant, engaging and authentic learning experiences. I used to be that guy too. Team teaching alongside someone with just as much energy as the “tattooed skateboarding principal” while also pushing myself to extend students (and myself) at every opportunity, I was:

• having students learn about film by creating their own trailer,

• hosting a TEDx event (IN A PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL 😲😲),

• publishing students’ poetry and giving them a platform to perform their pieces,

• running flipped classes with an emphasis on problem based learning,

• tutoring students in person and online outside of school hours,

• writing for state-wide academic journals,

• presenting at conferences,

• and probably a whole lot more that I’m forgetting.

Over the years since I’ve stopped doing almost all of that. In part it was because I felt like the ‘system’ was constantly working against me. I felt chastised, rather than supported, by various people in management and gradually my enthusiasm dwindled. Admittedly, I was still very rough around the edges but what I needed was encouragement and guidance and what I got was censorship and condemnation.

Near the end of Relentless, Brewer admits that it’s easy to get lost in routines and lose our way. I hadn’t lost mine, not fully, but I was probably closer than many people would guess. But, in reading the book, I could feel my fire rekindling. I spent most of it wishing I could work for a principal like Hamish but if I never get the chance I’ll at least have a sense of his leadership from these pages. They will remind me that I make a difference and will continue to do so, and they will encourage me to push the envelope in the name of student success – academically, socially and emotionally.

I Could Quit Teaching

The school system sucks. We all accept this. There are regular changes to curriculum and the way in which material is delivered but, for the most part, we trundle out the same old crap.

Walk through almost any school today and you’ll still see four walls, rows of desks, uniformly in dress and a teacher up the front doing “chalk and talk”. You’ll find variations on this theme too. It might be three walls and a concertina or sliding door. You might see a U shape, groups of desks or a long conference-style table. The teacher might even use technology to get their point across. Regardless, schools are still factories trying to churn out round pegs for all those round holes in society even if those pegs are square when they walk in the door.

It’s a multi-faceted problem. Its individual schools that do things by the book. It’s the education departments who dictate curriculum. It’s the government criticises teachers for dropping standards and combats that by increasing the workload. It’s the teachers who lack empathy, flexibility and tact. It’s the parents who are absent or ambivalent when it comes to the learning needs of their children. It’s the society who has abandoned the notion that it takes a village to raise a child and instead shirks responsibility wherever possible. It’s the kids who deliberately try to make life hard for people. It’s everything and everyone.

Schools don’t care about the mental health or the social skills of their students. They might claim to. It might be on their business plan. But! Therein lies the problem. Business plan. Schools are a business whose stock is measured by a system of numbers. What numbers? Standardised test scores: NAPLAN bands, OLNA and ATAR results. These are the details released to the public, these are the numbers that dictate funding and influence enrolments. When push comes to shove, these are the numbers schools use to determine their success. It is not about the students, it is about their results.

The union, which fights for the benefits of teachers, is equally uncaring when it comes to students. What does the union want us to do? Clock in when school starts, clock out when it finishes, work to rule.

I got in to teaching to help kids, to guide them through their tumultuous teenage years. But nothing attached to the school system seems to line up with that ideology. What’s important? Numbers, numbers, numbers, staff.

A robot could do my job better than me. An algorithm could measure student achievement, determine weaknesses and identify resources designed to foster improvement all in the time it would take me to call out the roll.

I could quit teaching. It would be easy. There are countless numbers of jaded staff working in schools across the world. I could join their ranks and either leave the profession completely or do a half-assed job of it.

I could quit teaching. But I won’t. When the system is broken and the whole world seems to be against them, who else will advocate for my students?

Honestly, and I could get in trouble for this, I don’t care about education department policy. I don’t care about government mandated standardised tests. I don’t care about towing the company line.

What do I care about? The kids!

I will do whatever I can within the four walls of my classroom to make sure my students feel respected, accepted and wanted. I will do what I can to brighten their day for the hour I have them. I will build them up, test their boundaries and push them to succeed NOT because it looks good on paper but because it is their future on the line. I will check in on them when they’re hurting. I will help them when they need it, often at my own inconvenience. I will treat them like the human beings they are regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or class. I will make mistakes because I’m human too but I will learn from them the way I expect my students to learn from theirs.

Why? Because I care and because I can. I got into teaching to help kids. If I wanted to work with numbers I would’ve been an accountant.

I can’t change the system but I can work within it to achieve my goal. I can’t change the wind but I can move my sails (or something like that).

Rant done.

Ron out.

Mic drop.

Peace!

Teaching Fish to Skate

I get told I’m good at my job.

I’ve heard this message from parents, students, colleagues and bosses… but I’m never sure I believe it. Self-doubt is something I have been crippled by throughout not just my career but my whole life.

Side note: this is probably why I write poetry.

 

Anyway, when I think about the teachers that I have crossed paths with (whether as a student, while on prac or as a teacher myself) I can’t help but think of the things that they do better than I do.

There are teachers who plan far more thoroughly than I do.

There are teachers who provide better feedback than I do.

There are teachers who know their students better than I know mine.

There are teachers who are more professional than I am.

There are teachers who manage behaviour better than I do.

There are teachers who know their content better than I do.

 

Simply put, there are teachers who are better than me.

But, I am good at my job and I can tell you why in 7 words – my heart is in the right place.

 

For me, teaching isn’t about content. Content can be Googled.

For me, teaching is about sparking an interest and hoping a fire lights.

For me, teaching is acknowledging that life is a race and I’m passing on a baton.

I teach English but I’m not trying to make authors of my students. I don’t care if they know what a dangling participle is. I’m not asking them to be avid readers.

What am I doing?

I’m trying to make them enjoy learning. I want them to want to come to school.

 

It’s strange. I take a lot of inspiration from weird places. One of these places is skateboarding legend Rodney Mullen. In a TEDx talk, Mullen talks about creativity and transcendence. He says that his love of skateboarding waned because he got caught up in the ‘job’ of it and he became reinvigorated when he realised the joy of experimentation and the potential of a creative community. The ideologies that created the school system as we know it have reached their expiry date. I get why students think school sucks but I want them to know that education is important and learning can be fun. I want them to play around with words and ideas. I want them to deconstruct and create. I want them to wow me.

mullen

 

I’m not the best teacher. I’m not even the best teacher I can be.

BUT… I refuse to put a cap on what I think my students can achieve and I am determined to make their learning experience an enjoyable one. As Albert Einstein supposedly never said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” So, instead, I’m giving my students an opportunity to show that they are indeed geniuses.

If that makes me good at my job, it’s a badge I’m happy to wear.

 

 

 

 

 

Cards Against T.S. Eliot

Cards Against Humanity (CAH) is an incredibly popular card game self-marketed as a “party game for horrible people”. Essentially, you play with a deck consisting of two types of cards, black and white. Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card. It’s like bite sized MadLibs.

 

Anyway, CAH is so popular that people are marketing their own versions. As it is the original has a variety of add-ons and alternative packs but people have leapt onto that winning formula to make Cards Against Muggles/Potter and Cards Against Disney.

 

And, that’s what I’m doing. I’m not trying to make money or anything like that. Actually, I’m making it for my year 12s. I’ve blogged before that I invent and play games in the classroom and that I’ll do things that are designed to make learning memorable and this is no different. My students are studying Eliot’s poetry and I want them to be able to remember quotes from the poems as well as contextual information so it helps them with their exams. More importantly, I want them to have fun with his words and enjoy his poetry.

I’m hoping this helps.

 

Anyway, in the link below you’ll find the cards (apologies in advance if you’re fixated on the colour and shape of the original – I’ve taken some liberties). Feel free to download it, try it, and/or offer suggestions for additional cards.

 

Cards Against Eliot – link

 

 

The Magic of Teaching

Everyone acknowledges that teaching is not what it used to be. There’s a lot more pressure on educators today than there has ever been. We all know the comic strip:

parents-yelling-at-teachers

 

Back in the day, teachers were respected by students (at least to their face) or the student faced the consequences – corporal punishment kept kids in line. Nowadays, teachers are meant to be engaging and innovative. Punishments appear to have limited impact and the only way to prevent behavioural issues is by providing an environment where students are actively involved in whatever activities the teacher is running. 

 

So, how do you do this? Teaching is often likened to acting. To quote (out of context) T.S. Eliot, we “prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”. However, it is probably more accurate to say teachers are like magicians. Not sold? Check out the following list of terminology associated with magic and how these terms apply to the classroom. 

 

  • Ditch – to secretly get rid of an object or gimmick.

Teachers have to be flexible. You can have the best lesson preparation in the world but if you are determined to follow that plan regardless of the students’ mindset then you are going to struggle. Things happen. Students might have issues going on at home, they may have just run a 3k time trial in Phys Ed, there might’ve been a fight at recess, they might be tired, they might be hyperactive, etc. 

If you can’t recognise the mood of your students and modify your plans to suit then you’re not going to have success. It doesn’t matter how finely tuned your lesson plan is, if the kids aren’t receptive to it (for whatever reason) you’ll be ice-skating up hill for the whole period. You need to be able to change things up on the fly in order to have the most success. 

 

  • Force – where a card or other object is made to be selected by the spectator, despite the appearance of a free choice.

Modern students like to be involved in the lesson design. It’s why PBL is so successful, because students get to make a choice about what they do in a system that is generally too rigid to allow that to happen. Sometimes in the classroom you get the ability to incorporate choices in to the lesson, other times you fake it. 

You might hold votes on when assignments are due or what text you analyse. You might get groups to choose their presentation topic. You might even get students to choose what happens in a period. However, often you will modify the conditions so the choice they make is what you intended from the get go BUT, because they were involved in the decision, they feel more invested in the outcome. 

 

  • Impromptu – a trick that can be performed at a moment’s notice, usually with everyday objects and little or no preparation.

Be flexible! Remember? Sometimes you’ll find yourself with 10 minutes of unplanned class time. You might finish an activity early or you might have to wait in your classroom until it’s time to go to an assembly. Whatever the case might be, sometimes you have time to kill. 

I like to have a few activities up my sleeve that I pull out in these instances. My go-to, and one I often use at the start of a lesson to keep students occupied while I take the roll, is the 9 letter word puzzle. I’ll choose a word connected to our current topic and have the students see how many words they can come up with using those letters. I’ll award some sort of prize for the kid/s who finish with the most words. 

9

Having these sorts of things handy, that only need a whiteboard marker and/or pen and paper, can be the difference between calm and chaos. 

 

  • Misdirection – psychological techniques for controlling attention.

This! In any given classroom there are a thousand distractions. Being able to redirect students’ attention from potential distraction is an art form. 

 

  • Patter – The dialogue used in the performance of an effect. Patter styles may differ from magicians to magicians – some prefer a serious patter, while others opt for a light hearted humorous patter to relax the audience and try to catch them off guard.

Some teachers are super serious, others are lighthearted larrikins. Whatever persona people adopt in the classroom, they do so because it suits their character and they’ve determined it works for them. For some teachers, their demeanour depends on the class’ age and academic ability. 

 

  • Sleight – a secret move or technique.

Despite the fact that classrooms are public spaces, not everything that happens needs to be public knowledge. Confronting a student about their misbehaviour can often occur as a private conversation, preventing it from escalating into something much larger than it needs to be. Printing materials on coloured paper for the class can allow you to cater for a dyslexic student without drawing attention to their disability. And… education doesn’t have to be overt. Games and interactive activities can be used to teach concepts without bogging students down in book learning or ‘chalk and talk’. 

hogwarts staff

^ these aren’t the teachers I was meaning when I said that educators are magic but you see it now, right?

Drowning at work

The problem with people is that we are human. Humanity has one great design flaw that makes us as equally capable of destruction as we are of creation. That is, we are driven by our emotions.

Our thoughts and feelings drive our actions but we are, unfortunately, affected by a negativity bias.

When thinking of metaphors to explain this I first thought of an anchor but it’s not an accurate symbol for what negativity does. Negative thoughts and comments don’t just weigh down an individual, they have an impact on those around them. Negative people have their own gravitational pull, sucking others into their conversations and behaviours. It has a snowballing effect, where the negativity grows with each new comment and complaint.

 
I hate my office at the moment. I love the people but the vibe between those four walls is cancerous and black. When your job is teaching teenagers, the office is often an oasis – a paradise amidst the harsh desert of the classroom. When the ‘perfect’ lesson doesn’t go to plan, when the apathy is insurmountable, when ‘that’ kid is in a mood, you take solace in the company of your colleagues who are all in the same boat. But it’s hard to enjoy the ride when people are drilling holes in the hull.

 
I’m tired of trying to keep us all afloat. Each effort made to raise morale seems to be undercut – the negative undercurrent is too strong. So I’m going to don a life jacket and float away for a while.

When the master becomes the… spectator

A lot of teaching is about control. Or at least it seems so.

First of all you have to control student behaviours. Gone are the days where you can expect students to respect you or do as you’ve asked simply because you occupy an authoritarian position, today’s teachers are taught and re-taught behaviour management strategies throughout their degrees and their career.

Then there is the expectation that we are controllers of content, keepers of knowledge. This stereotype is one born out of traditional practice and perpetuated through years of ‘chalk and talk’.

There are a number of teaching strategies that are currently popular that involve giving up some of this control, an exercise which frightens some teachers both old and new/experienced and inexperienced. These methods include flipped learning, SOLE and PBL among others.

I’m about to walk this path. Again.

A few years back I was a lot more proactive in this space. A colleague and I pushed each other to continually provide students with authentic learning experiences. We ran TEDx events, we had students create film trailers that were commented on by professional film-makers, we published student creative writing, we collaborated with other schools, we entered students in competitions, we had students perform poetry to each other and also in a public forum; we went beyond the four walls of our classroom and the learning experiences were richer for it.

Unfortunately, the school climate changed and we lost our mojo.

So why am I back trying it again? Mostly it’s because I’m going on long service leave and will only have my students for two weeks. In trying to come up with something ‘cool’ that could be completed in this short time-frame I remembered the work of Bianca Hewes, who I used to follow closely on Twitter when I was more engaged in this space.

One of her blog posts was about a class coming together to collaboratively write a novella and I was considering following this line of thinking, scouring NaNoWriMo resources and the Write-a-book-in-a-day website, but we’ve already done creative writing recently and I didn’t want to drag the students through something. What I wanted, was for them to take control of their own learning.

So, I came up with this – https://goo.gl/SIH1sV

I’m not certain how it’s going to go.

The hardest part will not be behaviour management. I have a few strategies and tactics up my sleeve to monitor student progress. I’ll use exit tickets, planning and reflection documents, inside-outside circles, value lines, and other methods to measure their success. This will ensure their accountability. Beyond that, I’ll use the usual CMS strategies to keep the kids in check.

The hardest part will not be relinquishing my position as the custodian of knowledge. I don’t pretend to know everything anyway.

The hardest part will be keeping myself in check. Each time I’ve done something like this in the past I’ve gone a little stir crazy. It’s the same with supervising exams and tests. I will be there, providing duty of care, but for the most part I will just be holding myself back and trying not to intervene (or annoy).

Wish me luck.

 

 

Teachers With Teeth

I was a teenage dirtbag and people have often suggested that I must be a brilliant teacher because there’s nothing the students can do that I haven’t seen or done before. If you add to that the fact that EVERY teacher I ever had said that I had the brains to be so much more then what you have is a recipe for… something.

If I knew cookery better then I’d offer a more precise metaphor but picture something that is potentially perfect but easy to mess up, prone to disastrous results. I want to say soufflé but I’m not sure if that’s right.

Anyway… what I’m really trying to get at is that I’ve walked the walk of a disengaged, disruptive teenager before and I can still talk the talk quite fluently. I match their criticism with witticism, their talk down with talk back. They bring the sass? Myeh, I’m a Sasquatch.

I don’t know what it is but students seem to respond to that as though they respect a bit of attitude. Maybe it’s just that they like teachers who show a bit of personality and humour.

There are 2 problems here.

  1. These retorts need to be immediate to be effective, thinking time decreases their effect and, so, you’re not always censoring yourself as much as you normally would. When shooting your mouth in this manner it’s possible that you’re firing live bullets.
  2. Mental health issues, depression and teen suicide are too real to ignore in today’s day and age.

I know I’ve overstepped the line before. I am truly apologetic for the words that have come out of my mouth in times where I haven’t considered their impact and I wish I could take some of those hurtful things back. But I can’t. So, I’m doing the next best thing – I’m trying to create a more supportive, positive vibe in my classrooms.

It’s not easy. This sort of thing doesn’t come naturally to me. But I’m trying. One of the things I’ve tried to encourage is the students complimenting each other. That way, when my feedback or comments are negativity geared they can pump each other up.

That’s why, when I read this poem recently, it was everything I felt but never expressed. It was as though someone was telling my life through verse and had gotten my gender wrong.

That’s why I asked them if I could share it here. It wasn’t titled where I read it so I’m going to call it “Miss Roast”. It’s by fellow WA based teacher/poet, Elise Kelly.

 

They call me Miss Roast at school

It is a title of respect that crowns my head, put there by adolescent fingers

Shouted in open school halls like a student catcall or a grudging fanfare

Every day in class I read my students a Shakespearean insult

Though they can not sift through the Bard’s English, the cloaked insult is a language they understand

And breathe it like oxygen

There is no higher art form to them than invectives injected like venom into another’s tender skin

They roast their friends and foes over the same fire and feast on the spitting crackle, hoping they will not be burned in turn

Their favourite sport is the back-and-forth banter, the tennis-match rally of roasting and boasting

And although there is room for wit, they have no time for it

Their words are crude and cruel and so naive in their poison

But they call me Miss Roast because I can speak with their forked tongue

Relief teachers get a lot of shit, and I have learned to clapback and smackdown their jibes

I have clothed myself with comebacks and stood armed with retorts like they were a shield

But I fear they have become bullets that plant guns in their half-grown hands

They call me Miss Roast, because I can leave a student who gives me lip lying in the dust after the lick of my whip-like tongue

Hold my own against the sass of asshole dropkicks

But I wonder if I should be proud of the title

Rap for them comes only in battle form

Poetry to them is uncool until it is in a slam

My words are most worth their respect when I make them weapons, and I did not mean for this to happen

Why do I teach them an insult a day when I could teach them to be kind

Fill their ears with the music of Shakespeare’s sonnets of love

Teach them the ancient art of compliments where no one is the opponent, and victory comes from raising each other up instead of breaking each other down

They call me Miss Roast

A stamp of youthful approval for the fire in my breath, leaving the ground scorched

But I would rather be the warm sun helping these little buds to bloom

I’ve got the music in me

My year 12 General class have a really naff task to complete that has great potential. Basically, they have to demonstrate how 5 songs connect to their life/experiences. Currently it is neither an autobiographical task nor a song analysis one but it could be great as both. Oh well, there’s always next year.

 

Anyway, as is often the case, I’ve created an example they can follow. Here it is:

 

cover

Cover design.
 
Because this CD task is somewhat autobiographical, I decided to blend photos of me doing two things I love: teaching and footy. My ‘band name’ is something I’ve used as a moniker in video games and is based off the band Run DMC (who feature on one of the tracks). While the album’s title, RONception, is based off the film Inception and plays on the idea of the image (the Ron inside a Ron), the font style and colour is reminiscent of the 1980s which represents my childhood. 
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Track listing
 
1. It’s Tricky – Run DMC
Key lyric:
“One thing I know is that life is short
So listen up homeboy, give this a thought
The next time someone’s teaching why don’t you get taught?
It’s like that (what?) and that’s the way it is.”
 
The third line of this verse is something that I’ve considered getting put onto a hoodie. Mostly, this is because I’m a teacher and I’ve had to deal with the frustration of students not listening or not retaining information. The rest of the song serves as a reminder that life is hard and we need to do as much as possible to create opportunities for success and to maintain our mental health. 
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2. Re-Arranged – Limp Bizkit
Key lyric:
“Life is overwhelming
Heavy is the head that wears the crown

I’d love to be the one to disappoint you when I don’t fall down.”
 
When I was in year 10 I told my course counsellor that I wanted to be an English teacher and she laughed at me. Since then, I’ve had similar experiences where people have belittled me and underestimated my abilities. I’ve used this as motivation and have taken great pleasure in proving people wrong. Furthermore, Limp Bizkit was one of the bands I loved when I was in my late teens/early twenties. This is a great time of angst and aggression which is fits the style and tone of Limp Bizkit’s work.
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3. Swear Jar – Illy
Key lyric:
“Now ladies and gentleman I know I’m not perfect, hell
I’m probably guilty of this shit myself
But I’ve tried, oh I try not to put myself above nobody”
 
I come from a family that has struggled with many issues and this has made me humble to the extent that I’ve always struggled with the notion that some people are incredibly arrogant. I can list dozens of people who are better poets/teachers/fathers/friends than me. That said, I do rile people up on purpose so I can see how some people might assume that I think I’m their better but I honestly don’t believe I am superior to anyone. While I admit to being racist and sexist in my adolescence, I am an advocate for human rights now that I’ve matured. 
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4. It’s Only Rock and Roll – The Rolling Stones
Key lyric:
“If I could stick my pen in my heart
And spill it all over the stage
Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya
Would you think the boy is strange?”
 
Mick Jagger has said that the inspiration for this song comes from critics and journalists commenting that the Rolling Stones’ new tracks and albums were not as good as their old ones. He exaggerates the lengths the band must go to in order to appease people in the industry. Aside from feelings of inadequacy that I’ve experienced in my life, I also resonate with these lyrics and their imagery. I often write poems expressing my emotions (“stick my pen in my heart”) but I’ve got a growing rejection list from publishers. 
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5. Lean on Me – Bill Withers
Key lyric: 
“You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on.”
 
This song is hugely significant for me. My best friend quoted these lyrics as part of his Best Man speech at my wedding and it brought me to tears. I never had a lot of emotional support growing up so this was a very touching moment. Since then I’ve become quite empathetic. I’m generally good at reading other people’s emotions and am actually the person most people at work come to when they need a hug.
back-cover